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Projecting the 2011 Diamondbacks' Playoff Roster | September

How's that for an article title that no one saw coming six months ago? But with only 14 games to go, and an 8.5 game lead over the Giants, the Diamondbacks can start shaping up their roster and pitching rotation for the playoffs. Let's take a look at which 25 players might be on the playoff roster.

Here are the 20 players who should be absolute locks for the playoff roster:
LOCKS (20)
C (2): Miguel Montero, Henry Blanco
1B (2): Paul Goldschmidt, Lyle Overbay
2B (1): Aaron Hill
SS (2): Willie Bloomquist, John McDonald
3B (2): Ryan Roberts, Geoff Blum
OF (3): Justin Upton, Chris Young, Gerardo Parra
SP (3): Ian Kennedy, Daniel Hudson, Joe Saunders
RP (6): J.J. Putz, David Hernandez, Brad Ziegler, Joe Paterson, Micah Owings 

Montero and Blanco have caught every inning for the Diamondbacks so far this year, and that should continue in the playoffs. Goldschmidt and Overbay have both been getting starts at 1B, and the one not starting becomes the top (only?) power threat on the bench. Hill is the regular 2B, and Bloomquist and McDonald are alternating starts at SS. At 3B, Roberts is the clear starter, and Blum should be the main infield reserve as well as the team's primary pinch-hitter. The three main outfielders, Upton, Young, and Parra, will clearly be on the roster.

Among the starters, Kennedy and Hudson have clearly been the team's two best pitchers. Saunders has a 3.83 ERA and the veteran presence that will almost certainly make him the #3 starter in the playoffs.

In the bullpen, Putz and Hernandez will handle the 8th and 9th innings,  and Ziegler (1.72 ERA) can pitch middle relief. Paterson is the best left-hander in the pen, and Owings is the long-reliever.

Likely choices for the 3 of the final 5 spots:
OF Collin Cowgill
SP Josh Collmenter 
RP Bryan Shaw

Cowgill is the team's 4th outfielder, and can play all three OF positions, so he is almost certain to get a playoff roster spot. Cowgill is only hitting .221/.294/.273 for the season in 85 PA, but the team still considers him a better offensive player than the numbers show. Collmenter has pitched very well overall for the Diamondbacks with a 3.40 ERA (3.55 FIP), and should be the #4 starter in the playoffs. Shaw has become an important part of the bullpen (2.49 ERA), and has only allowed 1 ER over his last nine appearances, and hasn't walked a batter in his last 11. He should be on the playoff roster.

That leaves two spots open, and at least one of these will probably go to a pitcher. The possibilities are:
Last Roster Spots (2)
3B Sean Burroughs
Third Catcher (Robby Hammock, Konrad Schmidt)
SP Wade Miley
SP/RP Zach Duke
RP Ryan Cook
RP Alberto Castillo
RP Sam Demel
P Jarrod Parker
P Trevor Bauer

Among the position players, Burroughs is probably the front-runner. While his overall numbers are not very good, he did hit very well during the past month (.341/.370/.477), and seems to be a part of the team now. There is no one else on the Major League roster right now who can battle Burroughs for another bench spot. However, since AAA Reno's season just ended on Sunday, there could be another call-up or two for the final two weeks.  As for a third catcher, the team has played without one all season, and can probably continue to do so in the playoffs. If necessary, John McDonald has said he can be the emergency catcher, but he has never played that position in the Majors.

From this list of pitchers, I think Demel can be safely eliminated, since he has not pitched a clean inning in any of his last 7 appearances. Cook got off to a terrible start in July, but has pitched better during his September call-up (2.1 IP, 0.00 ERA, 0H, 1BB, 3K). A strong final two weeks could earn him a playoff spot.

The team will probably want a second left-hander in the pen, and the choices are Miley, Duke, and Castillo. Castillo has the most experience pitching out of the bullpen, but also has a poor 6K/7BB ratio in 9.2 IP. Miley has a respectable 4.50 ERA, but has allowed 35 Hits and 14 BB in just 28 IP (1.750 WHIP). So I think the choice will be the veteran Zach Duke. His ERA is 5.00 for the season, but is a better 4.01 out of the bullpen. Plus Duke has held left-handed batters to a .229/.250/.329 line for the year.

The final options are the two minor league stars, Parker and Bauer. There is a chance that one or both could be called up to the Majors when the AA playoffs end, and if they impress in the Majors, they could be added to the roster in place of the injured Jason Marquis or Juan Gutierrez (as 60-Day DL players, they are both playoff eligible). Bauer has really struggled in his last two AA appearances (17 ER in 4.2 IP), so his chances are not looking very good. However, Parker has been very strong, allowing 1 ER or less in 9 of his last 13 minor league starts. Mobile has a deciding Game 5 with Birmingham in the Southern League Semifinals tonight. If they win, and move on to the Finals, Parker will not have much time in the Majors before the Major League playoffs start. If Mobile loses, he could be called up right away, and could have two weeks to earn a bullpen spot.

Here is my guess for the 25-Man Playoff Roster:
C (2): Montero, Blanco
1B (2): Goldschmidt, Overbay
2B (1): Hill
SS (2): Bloomquist, McDonald
3B (3): Roberts, Blum, Burroughs
OF (4): Upton, Young, Parra, Cowgill
SP (4): Kennedy, Hudson, Saunders, Collmenter
RP (7): Putz, Hernandez, Ziegler, Shaw, Paterson, Owings, Duke

The only spots really up for grabs are probably Ryan Cook or Jarrod Parker for Shaw, and Alberto Castillo or Wade Miley for Duke. 

Edit: Mobile advanced to the Southern League Finals, and will be playing a Best-Of-5 series starting on Wednesday, September 14th. So the earliest we could see Parker is this weekend, giving him a maximum of 10 games in the Majors.  That definitely limits his opportunities to be on the playoff roster.

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